By Eleanor Colla
And so continues our viewing of Eisenstein and his Revolutionary Aesthetics! This week features a look at Ivan the Terrible Part I (1944) and Part II (1947), an account of the rule of Tsar Ivan IV, more commonly known as Ivan the Terrible due to his attempt at military campaigning that resulted in 24 years of wartime and gained little land, people, trade or resources for Russia. As well as this, Ivan’s advisors pilfered a city for goods, killing thousands in the process, and Ivan killed his son and future heir in a fit of rage.
Naturally, we begin with Part 1 where Eisenstein opens with Ivan the Terrible’s coronation and success of uniting foreign lands. But there is much grumbling from the boyars (a class of high ranking officials) over Ivan’s marriage to Anastasia Romanovna who they believe is leading the Tsar astray. A war insures, illness is endured, alliances are broken and the Tsarina’s death is inevitable as Ivan weeps over her body. Oddly enough, this is the setting Eisenstein chose to draw comparisons and glorify Stalin’s contemporary ruling and military efforts against the Germans in World War II. Odder still, is that it was rewarded the Stalin Award for its achievements in glorifying the U.S.S.R and for furthering the course of socialism.
Part II follows Ivan as he strips the boyars of power by giving much of their land to the people of Russia and gaining more control himself. Thus, the old assassination plots return with mistaken identities abound. Throughout both films Eisenstein used symbolic imagery to extend his character’s personalities and traits. Many of the leads can be represented as animals through their movements and actions, just as shadows and colour is used to emphasis emotions and loyalties. This film, far from winning another Stalin Award was banned by the State for drawing parallels not with Stalin and Ivan’s unifying actions and their protection of Russia but rather for their use of secret police, violence and hypocrisy. Sadly, Eisenstein passed away before completing the third instalment and thus, our adventures into montage end for another week.
Showing this Wednesday, April 6 at Melbourne Cinematheque at ACMI
The final week of Eisenstein is this